Look at them...don't they just LOOK like the nicest people alive?
We can file this under "put your money where your mouth is."
Remember way back in the wee hours of yesterday when I was going to be a risk taker and damn the consequences and stop worrying about being judged and cetera, and cetera? I would love to report that it was all unicorns and rainbows and I felt silly for ever having worried, but the truth of the matter is that it was partially unicorns and rainbows and I learned some valuable lessons right after I freaked out, made a scene in my attempt not to make a scene and ran away.
There were a lot of factors leading to my spectacular meltdown, but they're boring, many of them were avoidable, and it'll be way more gratifying for all of us if we just skip to after.
When the first song didn't work out, I kept my cool and said, "You know what? That song is going to sound soooo good when I remember how to play it and actually do it right. You know, when I play next year..." Har har. But then the second one went south and I couldn't even remember the the third at all, and I panicked. Obviously this wasn't a life or death situation or even remotely dangerous, but my reptilian brain was in control. Fight, flight or freeze time. I froze while I debated the other two options. Fighting, I suppose, would have been trying to muscle through the performance again, but I already felt humiliated, so I flew.
As I fled from the little tent-stage by the sea the good people of Long Island, some friends, some strangers, some somewhere in the middle, started shouting for me to try again. They offered to turn their backs so they weren't looking at me. They told me to pretend that I was playing for my friends, or bymyself. They suggested someone get me a drink. (My mom told me later that one woman chided them that I wasn't old enough to drink.) They were, in short, the nicest, most supportive people in the history of the world and it made me feel even worse that these nice people who came to hear music now felt like they had to coddle the little hothouse flower who couldn't hack it.
Once we'd established that I wasn't going back up there, or at least not then, several people with amazing instincts for putting others at ease came to make small talk about my ukulele, the name of my band (if only the band had been there!), Eddie Vedder's uke album. One of my favorite old men of all time, Emil (pronounced EE-mil), told me the ukulele means, "jumping flea" and was imported from Portugal. Everyone told me to take a few minutes and try again.
Here's Yvette and her friend whose name I
really ought to know because he was really,
really awesome to me.
So I took a little walk away from the lovely seaside venue and hung out near the road. I chose the song that felt most comfortable, trimmed some frills, played it through a bunch of times. I went back and had a beer, enjoyed some pretty awesome acapella Irish songs and the event's host, Yvette, singing some sweet covers with one of the guys from her band, Rizing Tide. Yvette's got pipes and swagger and is generally wonderful.
Eventually I played. It was a simple little ditty, imperfectly executed but it felt good. The lovely people of Long Island were gracious and supportive all over again and Emil called for more. I declined, but reminded them I'd be back with that first song next year.
At a certain point in this adventure, it stopped being about the performance or even about my pride. I just needed to take back control from ol' reptile brain. If ever there was a supportive and nurturing environment in which to take a small risk, this was it, and it kind of felt like insult to all those nice people if my adrenal system decided to keep being scared of them.
Today I continued to feel vestigial twinges of guilt and embarrassment over the whole debacle, but ultimately I had a great time, heard some great music, bonded with some people I really enjoy but usually only see in a work context but have always wanted to just hang out with (while talking with one woman who was really excited and interested in playing the ukulele, I literally said, "You should check it out! Do you want to come touch it?" Thankfully she was into it and just said, "Yeah!" Instead of, "Do you want to come touch it? That's a really weird way to put it."). I would do it again. I will do it again, if they'll have me. And since I think they won't say no, whether because they actually liked it when I played or because they're too polite, next year that first song's going to be awesome. I promised Emil.